by / July 23rd, 2009 /

Mark Kozelek Interview

Since 1992, his initial days with Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek has had an unshakable, natural devotion to lyrics and guitarsmanship, pulling audiences into the very moment of his inspiration.

He is playing Andrews Lane Theatre tonight (July 23rd), doors open at 8pm. Prior to embarking on his latest European tour State put some questions to the intrepid troubadour and true to life on the road Mark is “doing this from airport in luton or some place like that”

Moving from Red House Painters to Sun Kil Moon to now, your voice has come more and more to the fore front of your music? When writing songs now would you consciously write with your voice (as an instrument) in mind?
[I’m] not really sure. Lately I’ve been so focused on the guitar, and have been sort of laying back with vocals, just sort of doing what I think is necessary and what should naturallly lay on top of the guitar.

You spend a lot of time on the road; do you find it lucrative with respect to material or subject matter to write about? On the flip side, don’t you find it exhausting?
Yes, I’m on tour right now, its exhausting. But it’s interesting as you’re out of your element, things are moving fast, and it’s so surreal, you feel a million things in a day. Frustration, like with airports, vehicles, customs officers, highways, etc, etc. But there are moments of joy, like when you see a cat walk across the street, or if someone is nice to you. But you’re really only treated with respect for a few hours of the day, and the rest of the time you are some scumbag with guitars annoying someone on an airplane. If you’re a poet it’s impossible not to feel a million things while in transit . The day is long on tour, and you see a lot of stuff in the course of the day.

Staying with the subject of touring or more so places; In RHP’s (Ocean Beach, Down Colourful Hill) days you mentions street names and places and in songs like -Tonight In Bilboa’ you name check nearly every major city or large town in Europe. Do you make a strong connection with places you have visited? Are there any places you haven’t visited or would like to spend more time in?
I’ve been to Europe more times than I’ve been to the beach in San Francisco. It’s intriguing the first few times around, and then its just a lonely, awkward place to tour. I’d like to go to South America, or Vietnam or somewhere like that, where I’ve never been.

Have you any stories from trips to Dublin?
A girl peeing on my hotel room floor comes to mind, but I have good stories too. I met John Connolly at Whelans and have a friendship with him now.

Your lyrics are never wishy washy, they always paint a strong picture. Be they confessional or otherwise there’s always a story. Have you ever considered writing short stories or a novel?
Not really. I could attempt it but my feeling is that it would be weak.

So, from writing to acting; is it something you would like to pursue? The three roles you have done have been touring musicians, I particularly enjoyed Luther in Shopgirl, would you like to move outside this typecast?
Yes, I’d like to get a real part on a movie, something where I have to really work. I think I could pull it off, but I haven’t been offered anything.

On Lost Verses Live you’re in a particularly jovial mood, you also mention being 40 years of age; do you think you have you mellowed out over the years?
In many ways I have, but in some ways I’m still 20 years old, trying to figure life out.

On that recording you joke about a lady on the Amtrak saying that she hopes your audience appreciate you. You undoubtedly have a strong fan base, fanatical even, and sell out nearly every show you play, well in Ireland anyway. Do you feel you need to work at audience appreciation?
Sure, I can have bad shows. There have been shows where I didn’t give much, and I didn’t get anything back. Like a boxer who gets too confident, and then you find yourself on your ass. I’m sometimes not very responsible and just sort of wing shows. But for the most part I put my heart into it. Sometimes you just have a long, bad day, didn’t have dinner, whatever.

As I said before, you have a fanatical following, how do you feel about people’s attachment and relationships to your songs?
I’m fine with it, I like people, and like connecting with them. But some people are just weird to me. I’ve gotten used to it, and just tune out the weirdos – the chubby guys with backpacks who stalk around after you in some country.

From you back catalogue do you find that some songs more than others come back to you or demand further attention?
I go in and out with some songs. I played ‘Things Mean A Lot’ the other night, and haven’t played it in 15 years. It felt good. You just disconnect with material sometimes, and sometimes it comes back to you.

How is your -Caldo Verde’ record label working out for you, was it the right decision or does it have its own headaches?
It has some headaches, but that’s life. Records don’t just make themselves. If you’re going to have a career in music, you’d better be willing to go to work. It’s a job.